Effective Keyword Research for SEO (Tips, Tools & Examples)
Step-by-step help on keyword research and quantification, with tools like Keyword Eye.
What is keyword research?
It is the process of finding the keywords which your targeted audience are searching for within the search engines. The process requires a refined eye, carefully selecting attainable keywords based on relevance, potential search volume and competition.
What tools can we use?
There are numerous keyword tools available online today which can assist with keyword research. Let’s go through a couple of the more popular tools available.
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
It’s fair to assume that this is the most used keyword tool. This tool will return monthly search volume estimates for your chosen keywords in your targeted geographic area.
Enter a broad keyword for the keyword sector you wish to research for in the ‘word or phrase’ box. In the example below we have selected ‘new homes’. Multiple keywords can be added per line if needed. For the purpose of keyword brainstorming we have left the ‘only show ideas closely related to my search terms’ un-ticked to show a full list of keyword ideas.
Remember to pay particular attention to the ‘Match Types’ section on the left hand side of this tool. For keyword research it is often recommended to change this setting to ‘Exact’ only. This is helpful because it only returns search volume estimates for the exact keyword in question. ‘Phrase’ match is still helpful however because it allows you to gage the search volume for all keywords containing the keyword in question.
On clicking ‘Search’ the tool will return a list of keyword ideas based on your original word or phrase. The columns are customisable, but the main pieces of data you want to acknowledge are ‘Local Monthly Searches’ and trends. ‘Local Monthly Searches’ is the monthly search volume for the geographic area you have selected prior to the keyword ideas being generated. In our example we left this as ‘United States’. Please note that the ‘Competition’ column refers to how competitive it is within Google AdWords, their own pay per click advertising platform. Whilst this score can be directly related to how competitive it is in the natural search results, we recommend leaving this column alone for the purpose of effective SEO keyword research.
It is worth the effort of cycling through this keyword list and ticking the questions which are relevant. On completing this task click the ‘Download’ button and then ‘Selected’. Define ‘CSV for Excel’ as your download type.
This visual keyword suggestion tool is extremely useful for keyword brainstorming. Simply enter a broad keyword idea and the tool will return keyword suggestions in a visual cloud format where the size of the keyword reflects monthly search volume and the colour represents how competitive it is.
The metrics used are exactly the same as used in the Google keyword tool for exact match. Keyword Eye is useful because it visualizes the data in a way many of you may prefer compared to traditional tools.
Click on the keywords you wish to choose and it will add them to the ‘Selected Keywords’ list from which you can export them to Excel.
Of course, we don’t always need to rely on keyword tools to give us keyword suggestions. Let’s go through a couple of simple ways to gather keyword ideas and trends from Google directly.
Simply start searching for a keyword within Google directly and it will automatically start generating keyword ideas. Whilst some of the ideas may seem a little random, you may find some keyword gems in this process.
Google Related Searches
Again, search for a word in Google and then click ‘Related Searches’ in the left menu. This will return a list of keywords which Google thinks is relevant to the entered query.
How do I bring all this together?
Using the tools discussed above you should now have a comprehensive list of keywords covering the main areas you wish to optimise for. It should be a significant list which needs further filtering and refinement. I’m going to share with you how this can be done within Excel. Hopefully this step by step process will help you.
To start, create a new Excel document which will be your ‘master’ keyword research document for your project. Create a grid with the following headings:
- Search Volume
- SEO Difficulty (Optional)
You already have the ‘Keyword’ and ‘Search Volume’ data from your earlier keyword brainstorming. Add this data into this new grid. In this process I’d recommend categorising the keywords. For example, if you have a previously generated keyword list containing ‘new property’ then I’d categorise these keywords into a ‘New Property’ category. Colour coding each category will help differentiate categories and keywords. The ‘SEO Difficulty’ column is optional as it depends on whether you have a SEOmoz Pro account to gather these metrics from the Keyword Difficulty Tool. These keyword level metrics will really help you refine your keyword list.
Once this data has been compiled, select the whole grid and then click ‘Data’ followed by ‘Filter’ within Excel to enable the grid to be sortable. This enables you to sort the grid by search volume or SEO difficulty descending for example.
The grid should look something like this:
Now, let’s go one step further and summarise the data. We will create a ‘Summary’ tab with your Excel document which will calculate the total search volume and the average SEO difficulty per category. This allows you to prioritise keyword sectors.
This data can be visualized to make it easier to digest.
We could go one step further by including your existing keyword rankings into this report. For each keyword we could gather your current website search engine ranking for this keyword (if available). Now, we could also summarise the % of keywords that you already rank for per category, adding an extra layer of data to make more informed decisions as to what keyword sectors to optimise for.
You can download a copy of the discussed Excel report here. This example contains sample data. You are free to use, edit and improve this report as you wish.
I hope this post has given you an insight into creating insightful and actionable keyword research for your own sites. If you have any questions or feedback regarding this process please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
About our Guest Blogger:
Matthew Redford is an SEO Executive at Extreme Creations, a UK based digital agency that creates SEO & Digital Strategies that work.